Vision Abundant life for those affected by prostitution in Bolivia.
Mission In community we seek to practice and proclaim the Kingdom of God among persons affected by prostitution, through relationship and opportunities for transformation.
Bolivia is beautifully diverse and rich in natural resources, yet one of the poorest nations in Latin America. Still floundering from centuries of exploitation and tumultuous governance, an estimated 60% of the population continues to struggle to meet their basic needs. As the crowning metropolis of the capital La Paz, El Alto is striking at 13,300 feet above sea level. With its raw poverty, intense environment and notorious reputation, it seemed the perfect urban center to begin ministry among the poor. Together these sister cities report approximately 50,000 legally registered sex workers.
WMFB has maintained a consistent presence in El Alto’s prominent red-light district, which hosts roughly 400 beds in a dozen brothels. Here women show the war-torn signs of injustice upon injustice: sexual abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, single-parenthood, heavy debt and more. WMFB meets her here, hoping to break through lies and awaken dormant dreams. And then, when she is ready, offers her the tools and support needed to reach them. The following outlines our current programming.Women’s Program
We seek solidarity and understanding. We value presence and relationships. For that reason, we visit weekly the largest red-light district in El Alto – and have done so since 2001. There we offer a ministry of encouragement and prayer, along with an invitation to our drop-in center.
In our center, we offer fellowship, discipleship, skill-building workshops, therapy and support in times of crisis. It is a place of healing – a refuge – where women are empowered to seek the Lord’s best for their lives. WMF Bolivia provides direct support for approximately 70 women annually.SutiSana
SutiSana provides relief from prostitution for women in Bolivia through full-time employment, health benefits and holistic support. Founded in 2010, the social enterprise works in coordination with the Women’s Program for prostituted women to find stability and reach their full potential. Funds generated from this effort are used to help more women find freedom. Shop products and support the artisans at sutisana.com.Children’s Program
We seek to empower children and adolescents to break cycles of violence in their own lives. We offer a holistic program, three days a week, for children affected by prostitution, ages 2-15. Children receive a hot, nutritious lunch, academic or early learning support, dynamic Bible teaching and specific workshops to empower them in leadership. Children and adolescents also may receive therapy and support in family crisis situations.Advocacy
We seek to awaken an understanding of God’s heart for the vulnerable within the Church and society. Internationally, we seek to provide opportunities to learn and serve among the poor by hosting interns and visitors, and each year we share about our work with dozens of churches and faith-based groups. We maintain an active online presence to keep others connected to our work and share our experience in work with women in prostitution. Finally, locally we engage with anti-trafficking networks and partner with other institutions to pursue movement in the public sector that protects vulnerable persons.
The video below highlights a foundational element of our ministry, our presence in the red-light district. It is password protected, just to serve as a reminder that we ask you not to share the video on social media. Video password is Abundant Life. Check it out!
over 48 years ago
In the book, “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas (Harper Collins, 2017 New York Times best seller), righteous indignation swells in the main character Starr over the killing of her teenage friend Kahlil at the hand of the police. His death blanketly affirmed by unfair labels and justifications of systematic racism: a drug dealer and gang-banger, and in “doing things by the book,” or “the way they’ve always been done.” It’s this fire that both sparks Starr’s finding her voice and energizes her to work for change in the world.
That’s the same fuel in the engine at WMFB, our faithful ol’ friend: righteous indignation. Because, like Kahlil, our friends deserve better. They deserve the dignity of a few essential questions, instead of a callous label: prostitute. Questions like: What else is going on here? What unseen factors have been at work to coerce this person into this situation or action? With complacent categorization and judgement, these women (and some men) have been historically boxed up and pushed away from the center of society, robbed of their dignity, and pushed out into the dark – where the gnashing teeth and the weeping reign, where injustice is okay.
Like our friend Majo.* Young, desperate and searching for work in the developing world, she found a newspaper advertisement as a cook. But when she arrived at the place, she was coerced into sex work and trapped there for years.
Like our friend Sarah.* She was trafficked from a neighboring country as a young woman and also forced to prostitute for years.
Like our friend Wanda.* Orphaned and sent to live with her aunt and uncle as a teenager. Raped by her cousin, resulting in a pregnancy. When the family meant to care for her finds out she’s pregnant, they beat her, and kicked her out. She loses the baby. Her survival? Prostituting. For years.
These friends have survived decades of rape, pregnancies, abortions, violence. They were robbed of their chance at an education and equal opportunity to make it in their world. The list goes on. And what has society given them for these experiences, for all this suffering that came about while we chose to look away? That callous label: prostitute.
As if that makes it okay.
It’s not okay. No one deserves to be labeled, defined by an ill-fated decision. It is not okay to carelessly categorize and box up, to draw illegitimate conclusions around someone’s fate and then walk away. Words like drug dealer and prostitute seem to wield that power. Labels, among others, that have served as a historical license of sort, to…well, forego the age-old rule, don’t judge a [wo]man until you’ve walked a mile in [her] shoes.
Let’s take it to the next level. Accepting a label effectively makes someone “other” than ourselves. What if, instead, we recognize our common fragility and humanity? Realizing that, in the words of WNBA star and activist Maya Moore, “Maybe I was one decision, one family away from being that person. And I’m really not that much different than this person over here…” I did not get to choose into what country I was born, into which neighborhood, demographic. “… I have been blessed with so much…so I’ve got to say something, do something…”
Because systematic injustices and our own complacency are not okay. When we open our ears beyond a label, we discover that folks like Kahlil and Majo, Sarah and Wanda are speaking. For themselves. They’ve been sounding the alarm. Isn’t it past time we all woke?
To learn more about the roots of prostitution, we recommend this VIDEO.
*names changed for privacy
about 48 years ago
Thank you for investing in the work of Word Made Flesh in Bolivia. Below is a link to our annual report. We invite you to read more about what we've accomplished together the past year. We couldn't have done it without you! Thank you!!
WMFB 2017 Annual Report
almost 48 years ago
The small group meeting had just ended and everyone filters away to their homes. The matron of the family gathers us together around the table and begins, "We saw your call for help for Wanda,* and we want to help.” All the family nods in agreement.
“We have a stove that was a wedding present from my father. I’ve kept it all these years and it still works great!” She beams, "I began my catering business with this oven!”
We can see the tension in her. This piece holds great sentiment. A family heirloom of sorts.
But she gathers herself and says, “And the Lord said that we couldn’t just give away the stove, but that we needed to provide the propane tank and fill it too. So that’s what we did!”
And so we loaded up our little car and rattled all the way home on the bumpy streets.
Wanda was in great need. She came knocking on the doors of our drop-in center, clutching the invitation she received in our Christmas outreach 6 months earlier. Subsisting in the middle of urbanity, no one knew how she and her 3 children were suffering: a single mother prostituting, pregnant from gang rape, cooking on an open fire, and all 4 sleeping on one small mattress on the floor.
Little Jorge*, starving from hunger, complained to his teacher one day, “I danced for them, and they didn’t pay me like they said they would.”
The kids gobbled up the food we served them, gnawing even the chicken bones. Wanda explained they had gone a full year without eating meat.
The Church came together, providing clothes and toys, a bed, food staples and more. And Wanda and her children took advantage of all the resources the ministry could offer. Delaying her C-section to complete our intensive 6-week training, Wanda will soon begin working as one of our newest SutiSana seamstresses!
"I didn’t realize there were so many good people in the world,” she reflects with deep gratitude.
*Names changed for respect.http://wordmadeflesh.org/word-full-good-people/?preview_id=15733&preview_nonce=7c0f303261&_t...
over 47 years ago
This spring, I visited Vanessa’s* to share Sunday lunch and a rite-of-passage tradition for her toddler. She received me in her stepmother’s home, one of two living relatives in her life. I cut her toddler’s hair for the first time – the hair he entered this world with – which now designates me as his godmother. Afterwards, we shared a simple meal of rice and steamed vegetables with mayonnaise. After the meal, Vanessa asked me to cross the patio and see the room she rents for herself and her two young boys.
The room featured bare concrete floors but a wooden dresser and bed set, given to her by our executive director, when Vanessa found the courage to move out and leave her abusive partner. On the bed, shared by the three, was a shiny square pillow that her older son received in the children’s program. Vanessa tells me, laughing, that the boys love the pillow so much that they take turns sleeping with it.
Above the bed hang tissue paper puff balls that an intern taught her to make. Aside from her sons’ artwork, it is the only decoration in the room. On the small dining table is the set of cutlery she received when she began to work full-time in SutiSana. She continues to wash each fork and knife and carefully store it back in the original box.
And then I look at Vanessa herself, who left prostitution for good last year and was recently baptized. She doesn’t seem to know what to comment on, for what she has is not much to show off, nor anything to be ashamed of. We give each other a knowing smile, and walk out into the patio again.
over 47 years ago
She showed up at our doorstep over a decade ago. We were young and inexperienced, innocently suspicious of the audacious stories she told. Terrified, she quickly and quietly told of a large web of prostitution and trafficking throughout the cities of El Alto and La Paz, surreptitiously known as “La Casa Blanca,” or “The White House” for the number of political figures that frequented.
She recounted her horrific experience of being gang raped for days and left pregnant. And then later detailed the satanic ritual that led to a forced abortion and human sacrifice.
When she found herself pregnant again, she fled for her life and that of her baby. We did all we knew to do at the time: purchase a return bus ticket to her hometown in Brazil. And we never heard from her again.
Read more here on our blog: http://wordmadeflesh.org/god-transformed-darkness-beacon-light/